Bill heard his phone ring. He picked it up, saying, “Hello.”
“Hi Bill, it’s Tommy.”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“Uh, Bill, tomorrow is the June Bar-B-Que at Beaverdam Park. My parents said I could go. Are you going?”
“Oh!, I, uh, hold on.”
Tommy could hear Bill and his mom discussing the event.
It only took a few moments and Bill was back, saying, “Yeah. I can go.”
“Okay. See you there.”
“Uh, Tommy,” Bill sounded uncertain, “Uh, why don’t you come here first. We can make a short hike.”
“Sure. See you tomorrow, maybe nine-thirty or ten?”
It was a short walk from Bill’s house down The Meadows Boulevard to PayDirt Creek Trail. Originally, they were just going to hike PayDirt Creek Trail to BeaverDam Loop. The picnic would be in the camping area on the north side of BeaverDam Pond. Then Tommy suggested they try to track each other. A coin toss made Tommy the tracker and Bill the quarry. Tommy set his watch alarm for five minutes and Bill took off, running up the trail.
As he approached the first ford of the creek, he realized the difficulty of his task. He and Tommy had always tracked animals or, occasionally, other people. This was more like a version of hide-and-seek. He splashed through the water, trying to think of a way to trick Tommy. A glance to his right revealed a house. New construction was happening everywhere. He ran off to his left and then carefully crossed back in order to cut through to the front yard of the house. He sprinted up the street past several houses. Then, made a mad dash back to the trail. Instead of returning to the trail, he carefully crossed it, trying to step on rocks and leaves so as not to leave any trace of his crossing. Then he waded upstream crossing the trail at the second ford and stepping out of the creek when he reached the Meadows Trail.
Now he had two problems. First, he had no idea where Tommy was. Second, he did not know which way to go. He could hike up Beaver Ridge Road, but was sure Tommy would call that cheating. He could take PayDirt Trail upstream like they originally planned, or he could take the Cross Valley Trail to the other side of the ridge and follow PayDirt Trail downstream to BeaverDam Loop. But he was thirsty and Staley’s Store was just up PayDirt Trail.
Bill could see the sun reflecting off the paint on the side of the building flashing like a distant beacon when the breeze stirred the leaves of the trees.
Soon Bill saw a white flash. It turned out to be the side of Staley’s Store, bright sun reflecting off the white paint and tree branches waving in the breeze making it flash like a beacon. Tommy could be just behind him and Bill had a few moments: he could wait here, or he could slip into the store and, hopefully, disappear. Tommy, Bill guessed, probably had no idea how close he was to Bill. Chances were that Tommy would probably check the store to see if Bill was there. Or, maybe, Tommy had lost him. Which meant Tommy just might be sitting at the picnic table outside the store. He would have to be careful.
As he got closer, he saw no one at the picnic tables. But he did see Doug ride up and chain his bike to the lamppost. Quickly, he ran over to Doug and asked him to check and see if Tommy was inside. Doug laughed and came out a minute later. No Tommy. He said thanks and went in. He bought two bottles of Gatorade and some peanuts. Martha, who was manning the cash register, said she had not seen Tommy. Then Bill grinned and said, “If he comes in, tell him I said ‘Hi’.” He laughed and headed to the door. A careful peek at the parking lot seemed to show that all was clear, so he headed back to the trail.
He looked up and down the trail. Time to put his brain to work. If Tommy had not left the trail to find him, then Tommy would have already passed the store and be well north. But, Tommy would not have seen any sign of Bill if that were so. Therefore, Bill reasoned, Tommy must be behind him. Now, it seemed, it was time for him to begin tracking Tommy. He turned around and walked across the parking lot, hiding in some low bushes next to the creek.
About five minutes later, he watched Tommy walk up to the lamppost and then into the store. Tommy would take a few minutes in the store, probably ask if Bill was wet or dry, what he bought, anything to help him track Bill. So, Bill took off, running up an old rarely traveled path called Beaver Falls Trail. This trail went right along the creek bank from the village green up to the falls. Most people accessed Beaver Falls from the Cross Valley Trail, taking just a short section of Beaver Falls Trail up to the falls. Last summer the two of them had hiked the whole length of the trail. The lower section, from Staley’s to the Cross Valley Trail was rough. In a few places the creek had washed it away. That would give Tommy a challenge.
Martha would tell Tommy that he had said hello, so, Tommy would know Bill was just ahead of him. That meant that Tommy would most likely check the main trail; then, not finding any trace of Bill, come back to Staley’s and eventually discover his hiding place and from there he’d head up Beaver Creek Trail. Bill stopped laughing when he reached the junction with the trail that went back to the village. The trail north was overgrown. He didn’t have time to bushwhack, plus, that would give him away. So, he stepped into the creek and waded upstream. This section of PayDirt Creek was filled with boulders, fallen trees and other obstacles. It would be slow going.
He’d guessed he had made his way upstream about a quarter of a mile when he realized that the old trail was hikable. So he climbed out of the creek and headed up the trail. When he reached the Cross Valley Trail he saw no sign of Tommy. So he continued up to the falls. The boulders were gigantic by the falls, some as big as a house. And, as he approached one of them, he saw Tommy sitting on top of it. He was laughing and pointing at Bill.
Tommy jumped down and said, “Why’d you go swimming? Did you loose the trail?” He laughed for a bit and said, “I was bike riding about a month ago, stopped by Staley’s and then thought I’d ride up to the falls. When I found your hiding place at Staley’s I knew what you were up to. So, I just ran up the main trail and I’ve been sitting here, waiting for you.” He laughed again.
Bill laughed, too. “When I saw how overgrown the trail was, I knew you’d have an easy time after I bushwhacked through it. So I jumped into the creek. That was just as bad. There’s boulders and fallen trees. I think I climbed over a beaver’s dam.” They both laughed.
Tommy looked at his watch. “The picnic starts in an hour. Wonder if there will be any hot dogs left when we get there?”
As they jumped off the boulder, Tommy spotted a real estate agent’s brochure. “Look, there’s litter out here!” It was ripped and faded, but they could make out some of it. It said, “The Village of Beaver Ridge. A great place to raise your family.”
The two boys headed up the trail. It was a beautiful day; perfect for a picnic.